This December, more and more retailers are turning to ‘free shipping’ to lure in online shoppers.  In fact, customers, including myself, have come to expect it.  I asked my 5 yr old son what he wanted Santa to bring him this year and he told me, “I want the man in the brown truck to bring me presents”.  I laughed out loud, but he makes a point:  the UPS truck comes to our house much more often than Santa’s sleigh.
As my fellow online-shopaholics well know, this month it’s easier than ever to find free shipping offers!  Even retailers known for their high shipping rates, like Pottery Barn, have pulled out the stops this year with free shipping on Cyber Monday.  But the real question is this:

Is free shipping reason enough to purchase?

Free shipping is a great incentive, especially if it’s offered along with free return shipping!  Free return shipping allows even a habitual returner like me to buy with confidence.
Free shipping can be a no-brainer when purchasing items unavailable in stores.  If your local department store doesn’t carry your bra size (they just don’t stock 32 Ds like they used to), buying online may be your only option.
Free shipping isn’t always worth buying for!   Sometimes free shipping offers are automatic (meaning once you head to checkout, no shipping fees will be added to your cart’s total).  Other free shipping offers require you to enter a promo code at checkout.  The potential problem is this:  some stores allow only one promo code per order.  I told you about Pottery Barn’s cyber Monday free shipping offer.  Well, what if you had a 10% off coupon code that you wanted to use on your purchase in addition to the free shipping?  You may not realize until checkout that if you want free shipping, you’ll have to sacrifice your coupon code.

The moral:  Free shipping is great!  Kudos to all the retailers who’re giving it away.  But–next time you see a free shipping offer, make sure you are truly getting a deal.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a brown-box mountain of regrets on your doorstep.

Here is a list of stores offering free shipping this Holiday season:

Free Shipping to Home

1. Amazon: Free super saver shipping for eligible orders $25 and more.  Shipping time 5-8 business days.  Earn free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime, for a $79 annual fee.  Earn free Amazon Prime membership by subscribing to Amazon Mom or Amazon Student.
2. Bed, Bath & Beyond: Free standard shipping with any online purchase of $99 or more. Offer valid through 12/17/11.
3. Best Buy: Free standard shipping through 12/27/2011, no minimum purchase required.
4. Drugstore.com: Free standard shipping with purchase of $25 or more in eligible products.
5. EcoMom.com: Free shipping on all orders over $50.
6. Fabric.com: Free shipping on orders of $35 or more.
7. Home Depot: Free shipping on most Home Depot online orders over $45. 
 Free in-store pickup also available.
8. Kmart: Free shipping on orders of $49 or more until 12/19/11.
  Consider free in-store pickup for orders under $49.
9. Nordstrom: Free shipping and free returns on all online orders.
10. Office Depot: Free next business day delivery with orders $50 or more. 
Orders can be cancelled without notice in some instances.
11. Old Navy/ Gap/ Banana Republic: Free Everyday shipping on any order over $50. Orders arrive in 7-9 business days.
12. Petco.com: Free shipping on most orders $49 or over. 
Exclusions include cat and dog litter, crickets & live food, fish.
13. REI: Free standard shipping, no minimum purchase through 12/31/11. 
Shipping times are reasonable, prices competitive with other outdoor specialists. 100% satisfaction guarantee and easy returns. Free store pickup also available.
14. Sears: Free shipping on orders of $99 or more until 12/19/11.  
Sears.com shipping notorious for errors. Prices higher or comparable to similar sellers. Opt for free in-store pickup for orders under $99.
15. Shoes.com: Free ground shipping on all purchases. Estimated delivery time: 5-7 business days. 
Known for fast shipping times and helpful customer service. Free, easy returns.
16. Shoprunner: Unlimited free 2-day shipping with no minimum order size at hundreds of stores. Try free for 30 days. $79 annual membership fee.
17. Skull Candy: Free standard shipping on all orders in the US. No minimum.
18. Staples: Free delivery on orders $45 or more. Free shipping to store also available.
19. Target.com: Free standard shipping on orders of $50 or more.
20. The Perfume Spot: Free shipping on all continental US orders over $79. 
Time in transit is 4-8 business days.
21. Toys R Us: Free shipping with purchases of $49 or more. Generally fast shipping and high customer satisfaction. Good sale and clearance options.
22. Walmart: Free 3-5 business day shipping on orders $45 or more of items with “home free” symbol (over 100,000 items). 
Easy, free in-store returns.
23. Zappos.com: Free shipping on all domestic orders, no minimum. 
High customer satisfaction and fast shipping. Free return shipping if unsatisfied.

Free Store Pickup

1. Best Buy: Free store pickup. If in stock at store, ready for pickup in as little as 45 minutes. If not in stock, free shipping to store.
2. Home Depot: Free in-store pickup when ordering on homedepot.com. Most in stock items ready within 2 hours.
3. Kmart: Free store pickup for in stock items purchased through Kmart.com.
4. JCPenny: Free shipping to stores, no minimum purchase required.
5. Lowe’s: Buy online and pick up in store free. If in stock, ready within 20 minutes.
6. Payless: Free shipping to local store.  Regular flat rate shipping for $5.95. Orders arrive 14-17 days after leaving warehouse.
7. REI: Free REI store pickup on online orders. Shipment takes about 5-10 business days.
8. Sears: Free store pickup if item in-stock at store. Ready same day or next day.
9. Staples: Free shipping to local Staples location when you order online.
10. Walmart: Free site-to-store shipping, no minimum purchase on eligible products.
11. Zales: Free site-to-store shipping. Average delivery time is 3 business days.